DIII baseball — Danny Clifford collects eight hits in three games as George Fox keeps pace with the top half of the Northwest Conference

SPOKANE — Already saddled with five league losses this spring, George Fox has little margin for error the rest of the season as it hopes to stay in the Northwest Conference title race and qualify for the NCAA tournament.

The No. 23 Bruins came through with a crucial sweep of Whitworth over the weekend, but with the league’s other top guns staying the course, GFU remains in fourth place.

Danny Clifford drove the offense Saturday, going 6-for-9 with two doubles, a home run, five runs scored and five RBI to lead the Bruins to 10-4 and 14-2 victories.

George Fox got off to a slow start, falling behind 4-1 after two innings, but tightened things up with two runs in the third.

Clifford delivered the game-winning hit by driving in Clay Mott with a single in the sixth, then belted his fourth home run of the season to right-center in the eighth.

Benefitting from the attack was George Fox ace Clay Gartner (7-1), who went eight innings, striking out five and walking two. Christian Jarnigan finished up with a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out two.

Ian Buckles (4-0), Taylor Dunn and Nathan Higa combined to allow just four hits in the 14-2 nightcap victory, but had a plenty of wiggle room thanks to the offense piling up a season-high 20 hits.

Buckles went seven innings, allowing three hits and two runs while striking out six and walking one. Dunn pitched a perfect eighth before Higa threw a one-hit ninth.

Josh Rapacz went 3-for-5 and Matthew Zeller 3-for-3, with Derek Blankenship, Clifford, Zac Israel and Gabe Louthan all collecting two hits. Rapacz and Israel drove in three runs apiece.

It was the Tom Zarosinski show Sunday, as the righty threw eight shutout innings to push GFU to a 5-0 sweep-securing win.

With the victory, the Bruins reached the 20-win plateau for the 19th consecutive season.

Zarosinski (5-2) scattered six hits while striking out seven with a pair of walks and lowering his season earned run average to 1.59.

He was in serious trouble only once, when the Pirates loaded the bases in the third inning on a bunt single and two walks, but he caught Jeremy Druffel looking to get out of the jam.

Sean Eberhardt pitched a scoreless ninth to complete the Bruins’ sixth shutout of the year.

The Bruins got on the board with two in the third, one on a throwing error and the second on a Rapacz single that scored Blankenship.

Kaidyn Nannini doubled home a pair in the fourth and Clifford, who finished 8-for-13 in three games, scored the final run after doubling in the fifth.

Clifford, Josh Rapacz, and Nannini all had two hits, as the Bruins amassed 10 for the game.

George Fox (20-6, 10-5 NWC) will host Puget Sound for three games this weekend, beginning with a double header at noon Saturday.

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